The concept of "semiotic democracy" originates in the writings of John Fiske. See Television Culture (1987), pp. 236, 239. Michael Madow provides the following description of the scholarly tradition in which Fiske works:
"Cultural populists," . . . generally view popular culture as contested terrain in which individuals and groups (racial, ethnic, gender, class, etc.) struggle, albeit on unequal terms, to make and establish their own meanings and identities. As the populists see things, the consumers of cultural commodities (movies, songs, fashions, television programs, etc.) neither uniformly receive nor uncritically accept the "preferred meanings" that are generated and circulated by the culture industry. To varying degrees, depending on their social location and sophistication, consumers "resist" or even subvert these meanings. They "recode" cultural and even industrial commodities in ways that better serve their particular needs and interests, and "rework" them to express meanings different from the ones intended or preferred by their producers.
(from "Private Ownership of Public Image: Popular Culture and Publicity Rights," California Law Review, Volume 81, p. 125 (1993). Other analyses in the same vein may be found in: